Think about how much your hoo-ha does for you. This super sensitive body part treats you to tons of pleasure during s*x, cleans itself by producing daily discharge, and stands ready to expand to the size of a watermelon if you decide one day to deliver a baby. With all of these amazing things in mind, isn’t it time you made sure it’s on the receiving end of some much-deserved TLC? If you’re even considering doing any of the things on this list, show your lady parts some love by nixing the idea—or remedying any damage already done with the expert-backed advice below.
1. Sitting on a Bike Seat Without Padding
Ever have your labia go numb—or even start to hurt—during a SoulCycle session? That’s your v**ina making it loud and clear that the way you’re sitting on the cycle seat is compressing nerves and blood vessels in your crotch, which over time can reduce private part sensation. A 2012 study from Yale University looked into this more closely, finding that women who rode stationary bikes with the handlebars lower than the seat experienced the most discomfort. If it happens a lot, check your positioning on the bike, or follow these strategies so you and your v**ina can continue killing it at your indoor-cycling class.
2. Not Taking off Your Gym Clothes After a Workout
As you lounge around in your sweaty yoga pants, bacteria are breeding like crazy, thanks to all that perspiration your below-the-belt region produces (your vaginal area is packed with sweat glands, you know). If bacteria get into your vaginal canal, they can upset the balance of the microbes that normally live there and cause a yeast infection, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical associate professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. Change out of your sweaty, stinky gear as soon as you can, and take a quick shower to wash away the sweat that allows infection-causing bugs to thrive.
3. Drizzling it With Whipped Cream or Chocolate Syrup
If your ultimate fantasy is to cover your unclad body in ice cream sundae toppings and serve yourself up to your partner, just make sure you keep the sticky, syrupy stuff far away from your crotch area. That’s because if sugar manages to get into your v**ina, it can mess with pH levels and lead to a yeast or other type of infection, says Minkin.
4. Lathering Up With Too Much Soap
“Even a soap that calls itself gentle can be irritating to your labia,” says Minkin. “The less you use, the better.” Her advice: Once a day or after a gym session, work up a small lather from a soap made with no dyes or fragrances, which can itch or burn. And if you were one of the millions of women who received bath salts as a holiday gift, keep them wrapped in the box. Says Minkin: “I always see a slight increase in patients complaining of vaginal irritation after Christmas because they use those salts during their bath without realizing how harsh the chemicals that give them their scent and color can be.” (Find out which hygiene products that can help your v**ina—and the ones to keep away from it.)
5. Putting Fruits or Vegetables Inside It
We’re always encouraging women to up their intake of plant food. But experimenting with grapes, carrots, or any other fresh fruit or veggie normally found in the produce aisle is not what we had in mind. Even the organic kind still contains bacteria, says Minkin, and that can upset your v**ina and result in infection.
6. Getting a Tattoo On or Near It
Tempted to get inked below the belt? Consider how it might affect your lady parts. Having a tattoo done anywhere on your anatomy can trigger redness and inflammation, but your vaginal area has the most sensitive skin of your entire body, says Minkin. So you’re practically asking for a rash and itchy irritation. Even the cheap dye from a temporary tattoo can have the same effect, she says, so get body art on your ankle, arm, or back instead.
7. Lubricating It With Baby Oil
So you’re ready for a roll in the hay, and to get things going quick, you rub on some baby oil or another petroleum jelly product. Your hoo-ha isn’t going to be happy. Oil-based lubricants are thicker and don’t wash out very easily, so they can get stuck in your vaginal canal and eventually trap bacteria along with it, resulting in infection, says Minkin. Stick with silicone- or water-based lube instead. Because they wash out easily, they make your v**ina smile.